If Events Could Talk: 10 Strategies for Fueling a Powerful Voice

by Aaron D. Wolowiec, MSA, CAE, CMP, CTA

Has your association conducted a communication audit within the last three years? More specifically, are your meetings and publications teams working together to ensure your association’s events are effectively marketed?

If your events suffer from stagnant or declining attendance, sponsors or exhibitors – or if you have difficulty securing quality speakers – the answer lies not in a silo, but rather in your team. Following are 10 strategies your association can immediately implement to boost the reputation of its signature events and, in turn, its bottom line. 

  1. Branding – A uniform event name, acronym or hashtag from one year to the next is just the beginning. To ensure your members easily recognize an event at first glance, consider how colors, logos, fonts and overall design elements are used consistently across communication platforms.
  2. Differentiation – Briefly scan the professional development landscape and you’ll find fierce competition all around you – colleges and universities, other associations and even your own members. Event messaging must clearly illustrate in both quantitative and qualitative terms how your event is different from the rest.

  3. Value proposition – Every event comprises some combination of learning and networking. One way to elevate yours above the others is to demonstrate the value attendees can expect to gain in both the short-term (e.g., contacts, ideas, goals, objectives) and the long-term (e.g., strategy, tactics, products, services, profit).
  4.  Voice – If your event could talk, what would it sound like? An elderly grandparent? A progressive hipster? Ensure written collateral closely resembles the tone and sophistication of your audience. As appropriate, add in elements of levity, informality, slang and pop culture to also make them fun and interesting to read.
  5.  Brevity – Promotional pieces are not the place to be long-winded. Prospective attendees are inundated with messaging each and every day, so make it easy for them to cut through the noise and connect with your publications. Don’t be surprised if fewer words result in improved open and click-through rates, too.
  6.  Channels – Determine how your association communicates. And don’t just think in terms of print communications – include all digital and social media platforms, as well. Optimal event marketing is multimedia in nature and should include messaging in most – if not all – of these communication channels.
  7. Testimonials – Never underestimate the power of an exceptional experience, particularly by Generation Yelp. Gather and share both written and video testimonials from attendees, sponsors, exhibitors and speakers. Ultimately, it means more coming from their peers than it does from you.
  8. Images – We know a picture is worth a thousand words, so ditch the clipart and invest in a professional photographer to take pictures during your signature events. Use these photographs throughout your marketing materials to tell your event’s story: who attends, how they engage and what they learn.
  9. Sample content – Sometimes prospective attendees and their supervisors are looking for added insurance your event will be worth their time and money. Sharing sample content in the form of slide decks, handouts, executive summaries and video clips may be just the ticket to secure their participation.
  10. Engage volunteers – Identify your repeat attendees and arm them with the tools needed to promote your events. Consider guest blog posts, social media chats and featured magazine columns. Likewise, remove as many barriers as possible to encourage easy sharing of member-generated materials.

While you may not have the resources to employ each of these tactics between now and your next annual meeting, take some time this month to identify and address the low-hanging fruit. Then develop a long-term strategic plan for implementing the remaining marketing and communication ideas, remembering to include representation from both the meetings and publications teams.

At the end of the day, you simply can’t afford to ignore what your events are saying about you, your department and your organization.

Aaron Wolowiec is founder and president of Event Garde, a Michigan-based professional development consulting firm. Event Garde works with association leaders who want to deliver dynamic, meaningful and compelling education and networking experiences. Email: aaron@eventgarde.com

Six Ways to Intersect Publications and Education Events

by Kim Howard, CAE

Delivering content to your members is one of the cornerstones of not only your publication program, but your education events. We all know that not all of our members attend our events. In a perfect world, they would. Because they do not, how do we share that information while not reinventing the wheel? How do we help sell the value of our education events? How can we showcase the content in the best possible way before, during and after our programs? Here are some ideas.

  1. Go beyond an ad. Cross-promote your events in the publications that you have. When you have a regularly published magazine, your content, if it’s mission-aligned, will likely fall in line with topics discussed at your education events. Is your editorial calendar in line with broad issues that are discussed at your conferences? Are you covering your content through the applicable lens for your members? Many associations have membership that runs the gamut from students to c-suite executives. While it is difficult to serve them all in one publication or conference, you can successfully integrate your content to cater to the cross-section of members. I use the term education events loosely because this could mean an in-person conference, webinar or podcast, lunch and learn or brown bag, etc. Have staff, freelancers or volunteers cover the event and write an article about the topics and subsequent discussion during the event. This is an excellent way not only to generate content for your publication, but to showcase the discussion. It’s also a great way to showcase your volunteers. Many members covet a byline on your association’s blog or in your publication. Covering select sessions at your events drives home the message to those members and the profession in general who did not attend that the event’s content is something to take note of and hear first hand. Think of it as your indirect sales guy.
  2. Give sidebars new meaning. Sidebars help break up your content and add an element of information that otherwise may be awkward to include in the main story. You are likely housing your speaker’s content somewhere on your website and the subject will also pertain to something you are covering in your publication. Remind your readers that the content is still there and provide access to it by showcasing it in a sidebar. You could have content available from a webinar, a whitepaper or a slide presentation from an annual conference session. Use it. You don’t have to showcase the entire resource—just use a link, headline and blurb. And don’t forget your association’s other resources such as white papers, reports, webinars, podcasts, blog posts and other gold nugget of information that shows your members that they have access to solid industry or profession information.
  3. Ask speakers to convert their presentation into an article or interview them. This approach works best if you have your editorial staff attend the selected sessions and figure out which ones will translate into content for your publication. It also helps to weed out the presenters who were less than stellar—you probably do not want to showcase their content in your publication. It’s unlikely their content would translate well in a new format. Add an editor’s note at the beginning or the end of the piece letting the readers know that this topic was first discussed at XYZ conference, webinar, etc. I have used this approach for years and our publications have received many excellent articles that we published.
  4. When you have a hot, timely topic of discussion, ask the speaker or panelists to write blog posts about the subject before the event. There is always some piece of relevant information that he or she wishes they could include, but can’t because of time constraints or it diverts from the subject a little too much for an event. Not only is this a good way to showcase the content, but it creates buzz about your event and may even increase the numbers from last-minute registrations or day-pass registrants.
  5. Cross-promote your education event through Twitter. If you know that certain members are into social media, especially Twitter, and they have fast fingers, ask them which sessions they would consider covering for you. This approach works best live, but after the event, consider picking out the top five or 10 tweets from the meeting and using that information as a sidebar to post-event coverage. The great thing about this approach is that you are covering yet another session that may not be covered any other traditional way. It’s yet another insight into the education content that your meetings and events offer.
  6. Additional ideas might include:
    1. Videos or other enhanced content in digital publications. Careful planning and scheduling can yield good video clips from members when they are onsite.
    2. Executive summaries of content, ideas or discussions to share with attendees/those who were unable to attend as resources rather than simply as informational articles (think of this as a note-taking service or perhaps even enhance these notes with new information to make them that much more useful).
    3. Leverage sample content/learning outcomes/ROI/testimonials in next year’s event marketing materials to make the promotion that much more compelling.
    4. Consider year-round opportunities to position your annual meeting vs. only the 2-3 months leading up to the conference; keep the conversations going.
    5. Consider repackaging content into an infographic or other visually interesting format to help members/attendees digest the information in a new way.

Even if you cannot implement all of these ideas, pick one that you know will work with your membership and any internal constraints you may have. Starting small will be the first step to yielding better results for your educational events and content that you are delivering to your members.

Kim Howard, CAE, is an award-winning publisher and president of Write Communications, LLC. Write Communications works with association leaders to create mission-aligned content for every channel for measureable results. She is the immediate past president of Association Media & Publishing. She can be contacted at kim@writecommunicationsllc.com.

 

Help Your Organization Leverage the Power of Twitter

by DJ MullerMuller Headshot

#worldcup2014.  #ipad . #followback.  #android.  These are just four of the topics trending on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 8:06pm.  The amazing thing is, these so-called trends are subject to change at any given moment.

Welcome to the world of Twitter, populated with 230 million active users who send more than 500 million tweets per day.  Although its dynamic nature can be somewhat intimidating, Twitter is a cost effective tool that gives organizations of all types and sizes a way to promote their brand, connect and engage their target audience and truly create a unique customer experience.   This is precisely why the social platform should be integrated into your marketing communications plan if you have not done so already.

Too often small organizations create Twitter accounts just to leave them sitting idle – failing to leverage its innate power to communicate and interact with their niche audiences.  The good news is, with a few simple steps, you can ensure that you are on the right track to implementing a Twitter strategy that drives results.

  1. Complete your profile and maximize your presence.

First and foremost, you must complete your profile with information that will help others easily find and identify your organization upon a search.  Make sure to choose a Twitter handle that is simple, easy to spell and does not include an abundance of special characters.  Ideally, your Twitter handle should be the name of your organization as that is the name that the public directly associates with you and will ensure that your account is easy to find.

In addition to choosing a Twitter handle, choose profile and header images that represent your organization and positively reflect the industry in which you serve.  Also, make sure your bio communicates your organization’s specific purpose, includes your location and has a direct URL to your website.

  1. Design and implement an insightful strategy that drives results.

With your profile complete, it’s time to design and implement a strategy that drives results. Although this may seem like a rather large task to tackle, if you break the process down into smaller steps it will be a much more manageable.

  • Define your purpose and set goals. Before you even begin to think about designing a strategy, you must know what you are trying to accomplish. Do you want to generate awareness for your organization?  Are you trying to generate leads for new membership sales? Do you want to increase member engagement?

No matter what your primary intention may be, make sure it is clearly established and set goals that will ensure that you are working to fulfill that purpose.  For example, if you are seeking to generate audience engagement, you should set goals for the number of mentions, retweets and favorites that you receive on a monthly basis.

  • Build your network.  Building a network is essential to setting up a successful strategy.  More is not always better. Although it seems as though the more people you follow, greater awareness will be raised, this is by no means the best way to attract the type of audience that you want and need to fulfill your purpose.

Start by following customers, clients, vendors, business partners, local businesses and other organizations in your industry. Additionally, take the time to identify and connect with industry thought leaders and experts. These types of connections will help create relevant content for your target audience, as well as provide engaging material to share with your followers.  To discover your industry influencers, check out Topsy, a popular social tool that allows Twitter users to analyze the social web based on specific search terms.

  • Know the platform. If you want your strategy to be successful, you have to do a little bit a research.  Twitter is not rocket science, but in order to attract and engage effectively, it is imperative that you know exactly how to interact.

In a nutshell, there are five different types of interactions on Twitter (see chart below). You should familiarize yourself with each and incorporate them into your strategy.

The Tweet.  A message that a Twitter use originates and may not exceed 140 characters in length.
The Retweet (RT).  A re-posting of another user’s tweet that appears on your Twitter timeline.
The @reply.  A public update that contains your response and the hyperlinked username of the person whom you are replying.
The Direct Message.  A private message you can send to your followers.
The Mention.  Any tweet containing a username within the tweet, including the @reply.

Beyond these interactions, you must master the art of the hashtag (#). By using a hashtag in front of a word, or phrase, you can potentially reach any Twitter user that is monitoring that specific hashtag. You can use your Twitter sidebar, or tools such as Google Alerts, Social Mention, Radian6, Trackur and Twitter’s search tool, to identify trending and relevant hashtags that will help you to connect with your defined target audience as well as industry influencers. As a general rule of thumb, never use more than two hashtags per tweet.

  • Develop quality content. Creating engaging content for your followers on Twitter can be a challenge as you only have 140 characters to attract and capture their attention. With this in mind, keep your tweets interesting by asking questions, leading with numbers and statistics, use images, videos and links, and promote your events. Most importantly, ,take the time to reply to those who mention you.   
  1. Add Twitter to your current marketing plan. Adding Twitter to your current marketing efforts will help  drive other users to your profile.  You should add a Twitter button to your website, or even embed a live feed., Promote your organization’s events, hosts contests and link to your other social accounts, such as Instagram.
  1. Measure your results and adjust accordingly.  As you employ your strategy, you need to make sure to measure your performance over time. This will ensure that you are reaching your goals and will give you insights into improving your strategy to better accomplish your purpose. Luckily, tools including Klout, Twitter Analytics, Demographics Pro, Sprout Social and Hootsuite, make managing your account easy and will help you to efficiently measure your reach and influence.  Explore the different features of each tool and choose one that best suits your needs.

As I mentioned above, Twitter is not rocket science. Therefore, have fun with it and don’t be afraid to adjust and experiment.  For example, try tweeting during different times of the day in order to determine when your audience is most active.

Following these simple steps will help you to leverage the immense power of Twitter.  Optimize your account, execute an insightful strategy, integrate your account with existing marketing, measure and monitor your results, be creative and, most importantly, and have fun!

For more Twitter tips and tricks, download WebLink’s free eBook 4 Simple Steps to Help Your Organization Tackle Twitter.

DJ Muller is president and founder of WebLink International, the creators of WebLink Connect™ the innovative, insightful and intuitive association management software with superior customer support. WebLink empowers hundreds of trade and professional associations and more than 500,000 small and medium businesses to help them acquire and retain more customers. Learn more at weblinkinternational.com.

The Emergence of the Chief Data Officer: Part 1 of 3

We’re inundated with data. So what? Why care? How does it benefit my association? This three-part series will help you use data to improve your marketing strategies and, ultimately, your bottom line. Part 1 focuses on the emergence of the Chief Data Officer. Part 2 will share practical tips to mine your data. Part 3 will discuss measuring your data through branding, social media and website scorecards.

  • All marketing efforts are measurable and data is not only one of associations’ most valued tools, but a must-have marketing tool.
  • There are more than 100 chief data officers (carrying that actual job title) serving in large enterprises today. That’s more than double the number we counted in 2012.
  • Start determining how you can better use data for the benefit of your association by using Google Analytics (if you’re not already), employing a lead generation (or member generation) scorecard, and by conducting an audit of your current marketing activities.

What is data anyway?

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, data is factual information (as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion or calculation. Data is plentiful today, but often underutilized. Data is also meaningless unless it is reviewed, analyzed and used to make mission-critical association decisions.

As an integrated marketer, I believe all marketing efforts are measurable and data is not only one of associations’ most valued tools, but a must-have marketing tool. One of my favorite quotes about data comes from Carly Fiorina, former executive president and chair of Hewlett-Packard, who said: “The goal is to turn data into information and information into insight.” See Hank Berkowitz’s article for more on turning data into actionable intelligence.

In other words, companies and marketers have data, but what are they really doing with it? That is the critical question?

Chief Data Officers are the newest trend

We are already beginning to see the newest C-Suite title emerge: Chief Data Officer (CDO).

In May 2013, Data Management Association President Peter Aiken told Information Management that Chief Data Officers are “more vital than ever.” In August, the Federal Reserve hired its first CDO.

The discussion around the CDO title began in 2012. According to an article by Associations Now, “there is an opportunity for more associations to get in on the data hype,” said Debbie King, CEO of DSK Solutions. Most associations, especially small to mid-size, might not need such a high-level data officer, but instead may hire a director or manager of data information.

The title event has a Wikipedia entry, which defines the role as “a corporate officerresponsible for enterprise-wide governance and utilization of information as an asset, viadata processing, analysis, data mining information trading and other means.”

“There are also Chief Data Officer (CDO) titles emerging given the increasingly complex challenge of Data Management, and growth of Big Data and Analytics, as our world continues to explode in data everywhere,” according to Cindy Gordon, CEO and founder ofSalesChoice Inc. “The new rabbit hole is a very promising one, as companies are increasingly turning to sales analytics solutions that provide an enterprise-wide data flow to maintain a competitive position in the market. Companies are turning to sales prediction analytic solutions that provide an enterprise-wide data flow intelligence into the forecasting process.”

ZDNet cites Gartner Vice President and Analyst Debra Logan in one of its blogs: “Data chiefs tend to have a more compliance-focused role and are emerging, for example, in banking and insurance and in companies with a burden of litigation and regulation.” Some 19 percent of business leaders expect to recruit a CDO in 2014, while 17 percent foresee a CDO appointment, according to a study by Gartner.

Gartner Analyst Mark Raskino shares five interesting facts about CDOs:

  1. There are more than 100 chief data officers (carrying that actual job title) serving in large enterprises today. That’s more than double the number we counted in 2012.
  2. Banking, Government and Insurance are the Top 3 industries for Chief Data Officers—in that order. However, we are now seeing other industries rising.
  3. Sixty-five percent of Chief Data Officers are in the United States. 20 percent are in the UK. There are now CDOs in more than a dozen countries.
  4. More than 25 percent of all Chief Data Officers are in New York or Washington, D.C. It’s a regulatory catalyzed trend—at least in the early stages.
  5. More than 25 percent of Chief Data Officers are women.In case you are wondering, that’s almost twice as high as for CIOs (13 percent).

Data? So what?

Some predict marketers will fail as we face volumes of data that machines are better at processing. Whether you agree or disagree with data, the truth is it exists and is plentiful today. Dashboards and analytics offer a great deal of information about demographics, geographics, traffic resources and much more information than ever before.

Data can expand your knowledge about your industry, competitors, customers and prospects. It can validate or not validate business models and the needs for new products. It can help identify your competitive advantages and market differentiators. It can help formulate marketing strategies. It can provide industry benchmarks and best practice Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). It can help measure and track Return on Investment (ROI) so you can adjust marketing strategies accordingly. In essence, data can inform mission-critical business decisions and make a difference to your bottom line.

Are you using available data to benefit your association?

Most associations can better incorporate data analysis into their strategic missions. Here are three tips:

  1. Connect Google Analytics—a free tool—to your website and review the data at a minimum of once a month. This offers detailed insights about where your traffic is coming from. For example, is your website responsive on mobile devices. One of my B2B (business-to-business) clients receives 20 percent of its website traffic from smartphones and tablets.
  2. While there are many ways to capture and measure data, perhaps the simplest method is a scorecard. For starters and food for thought, here’s a lead generation scorecard we hope you will use and share.
  3. Conduct a marketing audit of your current efforts using the data and analytics you have—even if that data is feedback from your members. Determine what is working well, identify gaps and areas for improvement, then brainstorm about new marketing strategies and tactics that will help you achieve your business goals for 2014.

Download a complimentary marketing audit template from Christina Motley, LLC byregistering here.

Christina Motley is an integrated Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)-on-Demand and member of the Association Executives of North Carolina (AENC) and serves on its Communications Task Force A. Learn more at www.christinamotley.com.

3 Simple Social Media Strategies to See Real Results in 2014

by Corey Perlman

With social media, if you’re not generating new leads or building stronger relationships with existing customers, then it’s just a hobby. And it you’re like me, the last thing you need is a new hobby.

This article will offer three ways for your company to see improved results with your social media efforts.

1. Fish where the fish are.

Where are your customers and potential customers spending time online? Are they active on Twitter? If not, why should you be? You don’t have to be on all social media sites. REPEAT: You don’t have to be on all social media sites.

Decide where your audience is spending time and plant your flag on those sites. If you’re typically targeting businesses, LinkedIn is probably the place you’ll want to spend the most time. With over a billion users on Facebook, chances are good that some of your prospects are active on that site.

Action: Ask 10 current customers to rank in order the sites that they spend the most time on. Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ as their choices. Follow up by asking how many times in the past month they’ve used each of those sites. You’ll notice a pattern and stay focused on the sites they ranked highest.

2. Be proud of your Digital Footprint.

When people go to the web and do research on your company, are they impressed by what they see?  Do you gain or lose credibility when someone visits your LinkedIn profile?  Today, most first impressions happen online and, with a little bit of effort, you can control much of what they see. Here are three quick ways to put your best digital foot forward:

  1. Have an attractive, user-friendly Website. I don’t care what the other social media pundits say, your Website is still your most important piece of online real estate. It needs to look professional and give your visitors the info they’re looking for in a clear and concise way.  If there’s too much clutter, too little content, or just frustrating to use, it can sabotage your efforts in gaining new members. In my new book, Social Media Overload!I share the five Website mistakes that most businesses make and how to avoid them. 
  2. Increase your fans, followers and friends. If it’s a social media site like a Facebook fan page or LinkedIn profile, nothing says small, unpopular or old fashioned than low numbers. So work on getting lots of fans to your Facebook page, connections to your LinkedIn profile or followers to your Twitter account. Always build your numbers—they matter.
  3. Improve Your LinkedIn Profile. As far as individual social media profiles go, LinkedIn is the place where people tend to go to check you out. Most of your information is public and your profile typically ranks well on the search engines when people search for your name. So it’s important to have a professional looking profile that sells you and your company.

 Action: Here are four things you can do to give your LinkedIn profile a quick makeover:

  1. Upload a current photo. The key word there is current.
  2. Work on those connections. I want everyone reading this to get to at least 250  quality connections — preferably people that you know.
  3. Work on your professional summary. Your LinkedIn profile is not a resume. So your summary should not be a history of your work. Instead, share your role with your organization and some of the benefits to working with you. Talk in terms of your readers’ interests.
  4. Get three quality recommendations. These should be from customers who have benefited from working with you and include reasons why they value the relationship.

3. Be Known as a Thought-leader

What could you share or write about that your customers and prospects would deem interesting or valuable? You should ask yourself this question before you share anything on social media.

It doesn’t matter the channel. It could be your blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile or Twitter feed, I want you sharing information that will benefit your audience.

Over time, you’ll start to build trust and credibility with them.

This is, by far, the most effective way to sell your value and yourself. If you deliver this much great material on the web, imagine what they’ll get by working with you.

If you remember nothing else from this article, remember to always Make It About Them. It’s the golden rule to seeing results with social media.

About Social Media Overload:

I wrote this book to help businesses avoid the trap of being overwhelmed by all the hype surrounding social media and focus on the areas that can actually produce results.

The book will help you:

  • Decide which social media sites you need to pay attention to and the sites you can ignore.
  • Avoid Website mistakes almost every business makes.
  • Strengthen your reputation on Google and other 3rd party sites.
  • Stay connected with prospects until they become customers.
  • Generate real business results from Facebook.
  • Learn powerful LinkedIn strategies to turn cold calls into warm leads.

It will serve as a roadmap for you and your team on how to increase leads, strengthen credibility, build long-term relationships, and win referral business.

Please connect with me and let me know how it has helped you! You can email me at corey@ebootcamp.com – send me a copy of your receipt and I’ll send you bonus material from me and my all-star advisors ($1,000 value).

link: www.socialmediaoverload.com/book-bonuses

Corey Perlman is an entrepreneur, best selling author and nationally-recognized social media expert. His first book, eBoot Camp, (Wiley) became an Amazon.com bestseller and received global attention with distribution rights deals in both China and India. He delivers keynote presentations and workshops to audiences all over the world.

Corey’s company, eBoot Camp, Inc., is a social media marketing company that builds and manages online marketing campaigns for businesses.   

Connect with Corey:

www.coreyperlman.com

www.socialmediaoverload.com

855-EBOOT-NOW

www.Facebook.com/eBootCamp

www.Linkedin.com/in/coreyperlman

www.Twitter.com/CoreyPerlman 

To see Corey in action, go to YouTube.com/eBootCamp 

6 Simple Steps to Help Your Organization Interact, Engage and Celebrate with Members via Social Media

by DJ MullerMuller Headshot

For years member-based organizations have existed to bring together a group of individuals with common interests, attitudes and opinions.  Fittingly, they have long represented the traditional network and served as the ultimate way for people to connect.  However, as technology has had, and continues to have, a significant impact on the ways that we interact and communicate, we have come to expect information with the snap of a finger.

Your members are no exception to this trend.  Luckily for you, in today’s tech-driven environment there are a multitude of cost effective tools that you can use to communicate and engage with your audience.  One of the most well known and widely used is social media.  From Facebook to LinkedIn to Twitter, the creation and implementation of a social media strategy that attracts, retains and engages an audience is critical to maintaining member relationships and heightening the exposure of your organization.

Here are 6 simple steps to help you maximize your social media communication efforts:

  1. Set Goals. First and foremost, you must establish your purpose and set goals designed to accomplish that purpose.  For example, you may desire to increase your member’s engagement and interaction across your social media channels.  As a means to measure your progress, and ultimately success, you could set a goal to increase the amount of likes, shares and retweets that your connections and followers post.

 Always remember that your goals should be specific, timely, relevant and attainable.  You do not want to set your self up for failure and setting SMART goals will help to ensure that you are on track to implementing a social media strategy that drives results.

  1. Make a plan. With your goals set, you must now design a plan that will help you meet those goals.  Planning can often be overwhelming, especially when you are creating and developing a strategy that is subject to the unpredictability of the human behavior.  Despite this, you must realize that if you are patient and take the time to actively listen to and observe your audience, you will be more likely to realize success in the long run.  The following tips will help you get started:
  • Gather Data.  Before you can begin to maximize your communication efforts, you must gather data that will aid you in making informed, strategic decisions.  Use the tools that you have readily available, including the information in your current association management software (AMS) and web analytics, to collect information that reveals which social media platforms are the most popular among your members.  Additionally, consider creating surveys to ask members their preferred means of communication.  After performing the necessary research, you can choose which social platforms will best meet your organization’s needs and the needs of your members and target audience.
  • Name a Manager.  Once you have established your primary social media platforms, you should appoint one person to manage all of the accounts.  This will prevent the duplication of information and ensure that your organization maintains a consistent tone, voice and personality across all channels.
  • Create a Calendar. Beyond designating a single social media manager, it is important to create a calendar that will help you get organized. You can use tools such as HootSuite, Sprout Social or Buffer to schedule the times and days of the week that you want to post specific content. Make sure to observe and note the days of the week and times of the day that your members are the most active.  Additionally, don’t be afraid to test and experiment with the timing and types of your content posts.
  1. Create Quality Content.  Content is king when it comes to effectively marketing your organization and engaging your target audience.  Make sure that you showcase your expertise within the industry by posting original content.  Master the art of content creation and curation, share relevant content from thought leaders within your industry, include images, videos and links in posts, ask questions, be responsive to your members and celebrate your organization’s and its members’ achievements.  

Download the e-book, 6 Ways to Produce Content Your Members Will Value, for more tips and techniques on how to create content that engages your target audience.

  1. Follow Through. Creating a plan is one thing, sticking to that plan and following through is a whole new ball game.  To keep your organization’s audience energized share company and member stories, respond to comments and questions, create contests, sponsor giveaways, participate in chats and, most importantly, be yourself!  Social media is great opportunity for you to increase the exposure of your organization and let your personality shine through. 
  1. Monitor Behavior.  Monitoring the behavior of your social media accounts will help you determine where to focus your future marketing efforts, as well as provide you with insights into the performance and effectiveness of your different content campaigns.  Make sure to use monitoring tools, including Facebook Insights, LinkedIn Analytics, Google Alerts, TweetDeck, Klout, Social Mention and Pinterest Web Analytics, to help guide you in your efforts.
  1. Measure Your ROI. After you have set goals and initiated a plan, it is time to see if that plan is working.  Measuring the ROI of your marketing initiatives is essential to justifying both the monetary and time expenditures of future plans. Although there is no universal way for each and every organization to measure the ROI of its social media, and accurately measuring its value can be tricky, there are a few tools that you can use to help get started.  For example, you can use your existing AMS to track social media profiles, try the social reports feature within Google Analytics or access online calculators such as HubSpot’s ROI calculator that can help you measure your social media traffic conversions and quantitatively place a value on your social media efforts. 

Unfortunately, social media strategy is not a perfect science. In order to get it right you must be open to experimentation.  The six steps outlined above provide you and your team with the foundation that it needs to start maximizing your social media presence.  Make sure to set SMART goals, design a plan, execute that plan and use the necessary tools to track your progress and, ultimately, measure your success.

Additionally, never forget to engage, interact and celebrate with your members, after all they are your most important assets.

DJ Muller is president and founder of WebLink International, the creators of WebLink Connect™ the innovative, insightful and intuitive association management software with superior customer support. WebLink empowers hundreds of trade and professional associations and more than 500,000 small and medium businesses to help them acquire and retain more customers. Learn more at weblinkinternational.com.

Big Data for Associations

by Jim Thompson, IOM, CAE

In the association community, there is a lot of buzz around the term “Big Data”. According to Wikipedia, Big data is the term for a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications. The challenges include capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, transfer, analysis and visualization.

For most in the association world, our challenges come with the curation of our data, being able to search to find the information you need and once you find what you need, trying to analyze what the data is telling us and then communicating that to our key stakeholders.

There are so many examples of things you can do with big data. You can measure the engagement of your membership, you can define demographics (career level, age, geographic location, specialty areas, etc.) and you can use data to determine potential product offerings.

The good thing for associations, unlike those in the private-sector, association members tend to more freely share information with members than most. Of course, these days, it’s not to hard to collect data on your members, potential members and companies. Using companies like Acxiom, Infogroup, or Infutor, you can not only access the data of your potential members, you can also get more detailed demographic about your existing membership.

So, what are some things that “Big Data” can tell you and how can you use that data. One of the most common communications tools associations use is email. Using email companies like RealMagnet, iContact, Constant Contact or even your own AMS email, you can track open and click through rates. However, a lot of folks get excited when they see their open rates, for example are averaging 30%, which is well above the industry average. The problem with that data is that 70% of your audience isn’t seeing your message. To use that data more effectively, review a months worth of your emails and see who isn’t engaged and figure out how you are going to communicate to them more effectively.

Additionally, there are a lot of stats on when the best time to send email is, however, you should really be using your data to find out that answer. Send emails at different times over a few months and then go back and review your open rates and click through rates. You should begin to see a pattern emerging. If you have good data, you may even be able to determine what type of member opens what type of email and when.

One great thing about data is to pay attention to things members don’t want, in addition to the things they do want. This is very helpful when it comes to things like killing the “sacred cow”.

Although, once you determine you have the data, the other challenge for associations is how to visualize that data for your stakeholders, particularly committees and the board. One way is to use visualization tools. Many of those can be obtained fairly inexpensively and can work with the data in your AMS. Tools Tableau, QlikView or Spotfire. It is extremely hard to look at a spreadsheet and see trends. Tools like this can help you visualize your data.

 Jim Thompson, IOM, CAE is the Executive Director of the Association Executives of North Carolina and is a great resource for all things related to association management.